The Lighter Side of Sustainability vs. The Heavier Fight Against Climate Change
I'm not going to lie; this post is a doozy, so I divided it into two parts.
The light (part one) and the heavy (part two).
So please come for the garden tour! (And this spectacular, thrifted linen Sleeper dress that came new in the bag with a card from the seamstress who personally sewed it) and please stay for the serious talk about how you can get involved in combatting climate change....
Fun pictures first!
Wearing: a Daily Sleeper dress thrifted new with tags from eBay and a Rouje scarf from last summer. Similar dress available here . Same scarf available here secondhand.
I thrifted the Daily Sleeper dress I'm wearing in these shots, but it came new in the bag with tags (as SO MANY SECONDHAND CLOTHES DO NOW) along with this adorable note (see below). I love the effort this brand puts into caring about their workers. The quality is spectacular, and I will definitely shop them new when the budget allows. They're pricey but worth it.
The Light Stuff
This summer, instead of a family vacation, we bought our backyard from our elderly neighbors. At some point, they had acquired both lots-- theirs and the area that felt like ours, because it's behind our house. We couldn't help but notice that the yard was overgrown, and they were never, ever back there. Finally, we gathered up the courage to knock on their door and ask them if we could purchase the lot. And they said yes! And named a very affordable price. For the exact cost of a family vacation, we bought our backyard instead.
We worried there was a catch, but the only thing they requested is that we not kill the family of groundhogs living back there. "We are a sustainable family," we told them. "We would never." They slowly blinked at us, and I realized how slangy and new-fangled and maybe even silly and pretentious we sounded. "We love animals," we amended. That they understood.
Anyway, I won't be taking any vacations or going to France to see my family any time soon, both because I have a zoo here (and I'm the zookeeper), but also because I'm considering pledging to never fly again (read more about that here and consider signing the Flight Free pledge for 2021 if you can here: https://flightfree.world ). I'm not going to pretend that's a big sacrifice on my part, but it felt good to make the pledge. Maybe I'll take a boat one day, but what with COVID cases on the rise, it's not like I'm going anywhere anyway.
Instead I plan to bring France to our Philadelphia backyard instead! I loved summers in my grandparents cottage in St. Aubin de Locquenay. A typical French backyard has simple, unpretentious outdoor spaces for wiling away long afternoons and a big table for outdoor dining. My grandfather also cultivated an enormous vegetable garden in his retirement. With his head of grizzled hair, his old navy work pants, and his spade, the look was not dissimilar to Peter the Rabbit's nemesis, Mr. MacGregor. Except in France, they eat the rabbits. I once saved a rabbit from the neighbor's cat in his garden and a couple years later when I saw my grandparents again, they let me know the rabbit had been pretty tasty. "Vegetarian" is not a word my grandparents understood. Let alone vegan.
Every single day my grandmother did cook a lot of veggies, though, always starting my grandfather's eye-popping eight-course lunches with a platter of olive-oil-drizzled tomato slices from his garden, followed by a side of buttered green beans. Nothing Instagram-worthy, but my memories of these summers are sun-soaked and soothing. (Apart from the fate of Mr. Black, my rabbit.) I want to recreate that for my kids. And I've always dreams of my own vegetable garden to feed us, not so much because of my grandfather but more because it's very easy to grow veggies in Philly.
Trying to fix MJ's trike that another mom neighbor left on her stoop for giveaway. MJ snapped a sneaky pic. A little peek of the yard behind me. Do you guys also love to treasure hunt on your dog walks?
The Heavy Stuff: 4 Ways You Can Fight Climate Change & Why You Should
Although I thrift most of my clothes and my wardrobe has actually become more elevated through targeted, secondhand online searches for pieces like the Daily Sleeper gingham dress above, the other day I succumbed to a marketing campaign that had been popping up on my feed in one way or another for years-- sometimes with targeted ads but also through product placement with gorgeous, stylish bloggers. The latest ad featured a marketing technique that's embarrassingly effective with me-- Hurry! These dresses are going super fast!!!!
And they were. I'm not so much a patsy as to fall for the flash sale scam on fast fashion retailer sites. The kind that pretends only three dresses are left. This campaign was more sophisticated and used popular influencers as their models. One blogger likened the experience to an Olympic event for shoppers. So I bought a dress. It arrived this week, and it's nice enough. The print is sweet and clearly photographs very well, but the marketing campaign is why the price tag for these dresses is $100 instead of $30 at Target.
I'd been commercialled. That's what me and my kids call it when we see a commercial on the TV trying to sell us a dream to fixed all our woes. An easy solution for thorny issues wrapped up in sheer plastic with a price tag attached to it. That word resonates with them, and they're more resistant to marketing than I am. I've tried to give my kids the tools I lack to navigate a landscape eager to make them believe they can buy an easy fix for any existential problem. It's embarrassing, but it's true. I am easily "commercialled" when it comes to fashion. If it weren't for my intense anxiety about climate change, I'd probably have three kids and go to Target daily. I'm an ordinary mom.
But ultimately, none of that matters. Neither my guilt, nor my sins. Even if I managed to thrift 100% of the time or only bought sustainably made garments spun of linen and flax, my individual actions wouldn't be enough to move the needle on climate change. We need to stop policing each other and start policing the bad apples aka corporations. Even if all of us globally dressed in linen and went vegan and never used another single-use plastic all our 7 billion efforts would only affect about 17% of global emissions.* The good news is only about 100 companies are responsible for 70% of emissions. However, until we place restrictions on their activity, our own activity is not going to be as effective in curbing emissions.
That was a difficult pill to swallow and part of why I stopped updating this blog a couple years back.
No wonder greenwashing is so successful-- we're primed to believe we can buy an easy solution to any problem. Or when we can't, we give up and think the problem is out of our hands. The former is not how climate change works. And the latter is equally untrue. There is no easy solution, but we still can make a difference. It's good to be aware of the issue, but to truly hold corporations accountable we can't just vote with our wallets (although I've recently also seen opposing arguments that that does help, so I'll keep doing what I'm doing. Check out this 2018 conversation between Vox reporter Gabby Del Valle and Richard Heede, co-founder of the Climate Accountability Institute here.) Regardless, the biggest polluters are undeniably corporations and the military, so we need our governments to implement systemic change.We need to actually vote. We need to get involved together. Not alone.
Here are 4 things you can do this week to either feel more involved in climate change efforts or to create a sense of hope and connection to the climate change movement:
1. Call Your Senators
And demand they care about climate change! Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson even provided a number and a script (see below). Check out her Instagram @ayanaeliza for more ways to get involved.
2. Learn Who the Big Polluters In Your Local Area Are
And join the efforts of the groups fighting them. I'm in Philadelphia, so I Googled "Philadelphia biggest polluters", and it quickly brought me to this link from a local newspaper. The information was from 2019, so I updated my research and it was an incredibly eye-opening and optimistic experience. Philadelphia's biggest polluter is no more! They went bankrupt and sold to a Chicago firm, who promises to raze the refinery and build "an environmentally-responsible' commercial hub. [Inquirer, 2020] 150 years of pollution from the area's biggest polluter and a change was made! There is a lot of optimism in this fight. People are beginning to wake up to the threat of climate change and the dangers of processing and burning fossil fuels.
So one quick Google search and I felt empowered, became connected to an excellent climate news source at Inside Climate News, and found a local environmental group at Philly Thrive. What do you think a quick Google search might help you find in your area?
3. The Best Way to Reduce Your Own Carbon Footprint
Reducing meat and dairy consumption is the most effective way you can reduce your own carbon footprint. You don't have to go vegan, either, to make a big difference in your own footprint. Eating just one vegetarian meal a week is the equivalent of driving 1,160 miles less according to the New York Times. Even cutting meat one day a week will reduce your footprint considerably and cutting red meat out will reduce it by half. I chose to go vegan after a yellow smog from Oregon's Bootleg fire hung over Philly for two days this summer and filled me with a crushing sense of apocalyptic doom. Going vegan has given me hope. I thought going vegan was impossible for me, and I did it. It made me wonder what other impossible things we can all do together?
To be fair, I'd been heading in that direction for a couple years. If you're interested in beginning that journey, the easiest way to start is to switch out real butter for plant butter. You won't even notice the difference. My kids don't, and no one is pickier than a mercurial red-headed five-year-old for whom even a dreamy outdoor picnic is not good enough. (Check out those photos above again. You might notice they feature the back of his angry little head). Virtue-signaling is not the most helpful activist stance. I didn't go vegan to feel better than other people. I went vegan to feel better about my world.
4. The Second Best Way to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
I already mentioned taking a pledge to fly less (above) and reducing meat and dairy consumption. Transportation is a big one, but household fuels are the other greatest contributor to your individual footprint. Turning off lights is one place to start, but it might be easier than even a flicked switch to cut your whole household's footprint. My husband and I were able to opt for a wind energy by simply checking a box. It took one quick Google search. (I'll write more about that in another post.) Ostensibly, wind power is more expensive, but our home is energy-efficient and equipped with an eco thermometer (that turns off constantly and is kind of annoying but oh well). And because of my Mr. MacGregor of a French grandfather (see above for context) who would go apoplectic like I was the world's naughtiest rabbit if I absent-mindedly left a light on.. well, not to brag but I am the Olympian of turning off lights. Anytime I leave a room and forget to shut the light, I hear Pépé's voice ringing in my ears, ""Les Américains! Avec rien dans la tête!" Basically, these actions have cancelled out the expense of the wind energy option, and we don't in fact pay more for a much cleaner source of energy.
If going vegan does interest you, I'll have a lot more to share soon as I discover an exciting new world of endless vegetable chopping. Joking aside, I really have discovered a new and very exciting world of tasty and vibrantly-colored cuisine. In the past few weeks, I've sampled jicama for the first time in my life, learned to roast an eggplant, and created a delicious cake crust from chocolate, cashews, and dates. (Well, I thought it was delicious. My kids hated it. "Mommy, you're breaking my heart with this cake!") But little do they even know, they do eat vegan or vegetarian at home. Meat replacements have really gone next level. Going vegan, after I finally adjusted to oat milk over the course of two long years, was actually easy and provided me with a potentially imaginary but still salutary sense of hope.
More about that journey in my food section soon! What would you be interested in seeing more of or learning more about? Please let me know in the comments below!
*That 17% statistic is from a library book I read (and from my faulty memory). The book is called Climate Justice by Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland. I ordered my own copy, and I will update the statistic when I receive the book.
Wearing a Dôen dress. Thrifted Polène Paris basket from eBay. And LOQ sandals from ShopBop.
I am an eBay addict.
There I said it. Admitting you have a problem is supposed to be the first step to recovery, but I don't exactly want to recover: I want to continue to shop eBay smartly and responsibly. It took a while to learn how to do that, and I hope these tips can help others skip past my learning pains.
Don't get me wrong: I love the eBay world, and I've tempered any tendency to spend excessively through a growing desire to learn more about antiques and vintage clothing. While just looking around, I've learned so much about last century's old New York City factories that made intricate, stunning gold frames or which 60s-era Argentine designers made the best frame handbags or why you should never buy vintage dishes unless you can be certain they're lead-free. And that genuine interest, research, and selectivity stymied my initial tendency to overspend as I did when I first stumbled into the garden of earthly delight that is the land of thrifting and vintage-hunting on eBay. And I'm so happy I did learn my lesson: eBay has become such a bright spot in my world. Throughout this quarantine eBay has been there for me. When I concocted what my husband considered the "crazy" idea of constructing a night table out of art and design books, I found many beautifully bound art, travel, design, and architecture books-- some for as little as $2. Or when I tried to recreate a vintage movie moment, my 24k gold vintage compact arrived days later and for only $12. eBay has sourced my every fantasy and whim at affordable prices and enabled me to learn a great deal about the world of vintage clothes and antique knickknacks.
Without further ado here are a few of my tips for your own storied eBay success!
1. Do use specific search terms
I don't know about you, but it took me years to overcome my fear of the vastness of eBay. I finally got over that when I was on the hunt for a specific dress a couple years back. Googling the brand and the dress landed me on eBay. I actually had my first and only bad experience with that dress, which I'll get into below. I learned a valuable lesson that time, though, and I haven't had another problem since. But I still got my toes wet, and from there I felt more comfortable wading in. More like I dove in.
Searching specific to very specific terms like "balloon-sleeve vintage dress" or "porcelain shell dish" or "vintage bronze mirror" will also greatly improve your browsing experience and help lead you to an item you'll treasure. In my case, on that first disastrous foray, I didn't realize that stock photos are generally a red flag. If you've shopped with a specific seller before and they're using stock photos, you can maybe ignore this rule. I would say it's a pretty solid guideline, though, and you might want to think twice. You need to see the thing you're actually buying. My dress that one initial time turned out to be entirely different from the stock photo of the dress I'd been searching. I was able to return it and get a full refund. And I learned a lesson, too.
2. Don't ever be rude or pester sellers
eBay really is a community space. That said, I didn't bother engaging with the seller that one time I bought a cheap dress with a weird unfamiliar tag that was clearly a knockoff. I called eBay and let them handle it. Before a sale, I also try to answer as many of my own questions by reading carefuly through the seller's description and studying the pictures. Most do a great job of giving you all the info you need right there, and if they don't, that can be a bit of a red flag, too.
If after reading the description and studying all the pictures they provided, you still really, really, really need to ask a question, be brief and be polite. Nothing is more irritating to an eBay seller than being pestered with emails. I sold a handful of things on eBay before I got too busy with my kids' school and activities, and I would cancel sales when people were too pestery. It made me afraid that were persnickety and would take off with my item and leave me a bad review. One of the things that's kept me off Poshmark are the ridiculous volume of questions you can see shoppers leaving for sellers in the conversation space beneath the item for sale. I've literally seen people ask sellers to measure the inside of the toe box for them.
Don't be that person.
Ask if you must. Keep it brief and to the point and be grateful for the seller's time and energy. Buy or don't. And always leave a nice review when your treasure arrives safe and sound. And usually with a sweet card inside the box from your grateful seller. Buying from small shops is incredible. The sellers almost always really care. It's a real person whose day you're making as much as they're making yours. Another benefit from not being a pain, is you will start collecting a variety of trusted, favorite sellers, whose "shops" will become your go-to.
3. Do check for exact photographs of the item being sold. Don't settle for stock photos unless it's a very trusted seller you've purchased from before.
I already got into this under my first example, but I thought it was worth reiterating. The only time I ever felt scammed on eBay, I hadn't checked the seller's reviews or checked for original photos of the item. You need to see that both are in good shape!
4. Do shop the same sellers over and over.
I also got into this under my second example, but just like etsy, eBay is more like a giant bazaar of little (and some very big) stalls. Find the stalls you like: the sellers who ship quickly, price fairly, and have a variety of stock that appeals to you are sellers whom I tend to favor with my business over and over. When you're not searching specific terms, you can still have fun browsing the shops you love. I've found so many unexpected treasures that way!
5. Don't impulse shop. If you find something you love, look around and make sure the price is right. The more you shop on eBay the more you'll get a feel for this.
Always, always look around. I had a friend message me recently to ask me whether I thought a Tory Burch bag that she had found on eBay was a knockoff. I highly doubted it was, because Tory Burch isn't considered a truly high-end designer, although I'm not saying that to disparage the label. Chanel bags can resell for more than their original new price. As can YSL and Chloe. Tory Burch usually prices close to the original price, true, but the original price is a quarter or less of a new Chanel bag, so the incentive to knock them off is less, too. But I did advise my friend not to get THAT bag. Why? It was priced very close to the original price, and I thought she could do better. After a quick, specifically worded search (ahem, see step 1!), I found the same bag for her at half the price that the other seller was selling it for. Always look around and compare. Don't settle!
6. Don't bid to bid
I think one of the big reasons I haven't gotten too addicted to eBay is that I recognized the source of the biggest problem: my competitive streak. The few times I did bid, I had a reaction that reminded me of the descriptions of people who get a little too into gambling. My heart would race, my palms sweat. I could tell this was a problem. And so I just don't. Every now and then, if I really, really love an item, I will bid. And if you do a smart way to do so is to watch the item and only bid in the last 10-15 seconds. There's a chance one of the seasoned gamblers, I mean, buyers, who definitely are unhealthily addicted will still manage to outbid you in the last three seconds, but I try to tell myself that I didn't actually lose: I'm not shopping to shop. I'm selective. I don't overspend, and if I lose an item, well, I know how vast eBay. I'll find it again. And at the right price!
Do you still feel anxiety about making your way into the eBay wilderness? Have you guys found any favorite treasures of your own on that site? In the photos above, I found my sold-out, blogger favorite Polène Paris basket on eBay. I'd love to hear about your own successes! Please share your stories with me below.
If you're practicing social distancing, which I hope you are!!, you probably don't have plans to travel to Ireland or anywhere else anytime soon anymore than I do. However, that said, I'm still finding so much to be inspired by on travel blogs online! I love a beautiful setting for a fabulous outfit, and it seems to me there's a feeling that's evoked when you're out of your own element and experiencing a new place that in itself is almost like donning a costume. The Irish countryside or Venetian canal or German castle does as much to transport the subject in those pictures as the elegant dresses or lovely hairdos. You know that feeling of putting on a mask and feeling like an entirely different person? At least that's how I remember feeling when my acting school made us take a Balinese mask class with a tangle-haired hippie lady who looked like she ought to teach at Hogwarts. In addition, the masks the teacher provided were plain papier-maché... not very fancy, and I remember kind of scoffing at the idea, then I put on a plain, gnarled mask and entirely became a little old man or woman-- I'm not sure which it was, but at any rate I freaked out my entire class. It was great! One of the best acting experiences I ever had. There's something so liberating about exploring a different aspect of our own character whether it's through masks, travel, or costume.
In that spirit, I really love Courtney Halverson of Pretty Little Fawn's travel blogs. Her last trip to Ireland was such a mood. She featured this particular outfit similar to the one I'm wearing here on Instagram not her blog, but I realized I could evoke the dreamy feeling of that trip even if only from my own garden when I put these pieces together based on that outfit. I really love how the outfit I shopped from my own closet and these photos in my neighbor's garden and out walking my dog in Philadelphia's garden district turned out and sort of lifted me out of my worries for a happy hour or two. Please share links to your own favorite spring outfit inspo photos with me below! Let's all try to inspire each other from our homes this spring!
A Sézane skirt from last spring. Similar here.
A Doên blouse from last summer. Similar here.
Frye boots from a few years back. Still available here and on sale right now!
A Polène Paris basket from eBay. Sold out at Polène but similar available here .
My favorite Rouje lipstick. Still available here .
I've always envied women who have a uniform. Not like an actual uniform, although it does sound nice to know exactly what you're going to wear every day, especially at 6:30 in the morning when I am bleary-eyed, contemplating which sweatpants I can get away with for the morning school run without triggering looks of concern from my children's teachers.
By uniform, I mean the word in the sense fashion has co-opted it to mean: a look that is uniquely that woman's own look and that she can conjure into existence easily, quickly, and mysteriously with the same blouse or jeans that might look boring on me and instead look simple and sophisticated on her. In a word: effortless style, which every woman knows is an illusion, but an illusion I've longed to learn the trick of, the way I used to practice flipping coins around my fingers for hours when I was a child. I never did learn how to conjure coins from children's ears.. and have more or less lost the ambition to do so, to be honest. But here are a few tricks I have picked up from living in and around New York and Paris or at least Parisians like my older sister, some of my friends, and a bunch of my children's teachers* for most of my adult life.
*A proviso: Keep in mind, these days Parisian style is more a state of mind than a geographical requirement! I'm French-American, a dual citizen, so my kids go to a bilingual school in Philadelphia, and I really need to start the French language learning portion of this blog sooner than later... Anyway, I've geared this post towards a French take on capsule wardrobes, because I find myself most inspired by that aesthetic, but you could recreate this capsule wardrobe (and if you do, please tag me!) as a Portland girl or New York girl (or woman or boy!) or any of the aesthetics that match either the region you're from or the region that most resonates with you. Also, you might be surprised how many of the pieces below you already possess in your closet and how it really only does take a tweak here or there to make those basics WERK!
1. Striped Top
I had to start this list with off with ze famous striped top (and get really in-depth with it), because, in my experience, that's what springs to mind when anyone hears "French girl style". I'm not sure how the striped top became ubiquitous with French style, and I feel like a study in that subject could become an essay of its own! I do know, when I was acting in New York, a casting agent literally cast me as Miss France in a music video for that HBO show Flight of the Conchords, only because I was French and then... my language speaking skills ended up having nothing to do with the part.
I still reckon it had more to do with the fact I'd also said I owned a striped top.
Luckily, I thought it was funny when they asked me to show up on set with said striped top, as well as capri pants and a beret. (All of which, I'd owned but had never put together in one look, because...urgh.) When they handed me a baguette to carry around on stage, I wondered if I ought to be offended. I 100% knew for a fact MANY of my French relatives would have been offended by the reductive stereotype, but then Jemaine Clement and Brett McKenzie turned up on set, which was in this huge, abandoned warehouse in Brooklyn near, or maybe even part of, the Navy Shipyards. The two stars had a zany, infectious energy. I sighed, deciding to just have fun with it.
After the video shot, me and a bunch of the other "ladies of the world" walked back to the subway together, talking, laughing, more than a little frightened by the odd, abandoned corner of New York City we'd spent the morning working in. Still, it ended up being a great memory.
That said, I would urge caution when wielding the striped top! You don't want to look like a reductive French cliché, even if so many of us do want to look like a Parisian girl. Go for fit and experiment with the stripes and colors that look best on you. I love this striped top by Ronny Kobo that I'm wearing above, and that I found secondhand on eBay. The bell sleeves make it special and the cropped top goes great with high-waisted jeans. (Another staple of the French girl capsule wardrobe. See Tip #3!) Also here's the video. Feel free to laugh at my ridiculous costume if you can spot me!
2. Neutral Heels
Okay, if you're still reading, I LOVE YOU and because I love you, I will try to keep the rest of this list succinct. I did have to reference the time I LITERALLY WORE A FRENCH GIRL UNIFORM when writing a French girl capsule wardrobe post, after all, right???
Anyway, back to the list: so, I found these pre-owned cap-toed Chanel heels from 2016 on Tradesy in brand-new condition last year! There are now a bunch of similar versions available from Sam Edelman and others at ShopBop. I linked to them on the Like To Know It app. You can follow me there to shop both my new and thrifted and vintage picks! Also, really any sort of neutral heel will work at making a jeans and tee outfit look a little more polished. Look for a neutral color that matches your skin tone. It will help to elongate your legs! (Also, a neutral, round-toed heel goes with everything.) Something else to look for: I have become a huge fan of two inch heels. Yes, maybe it's because I'm a busy mom, but I also love clothes, as in this capsule wardrobe post, that can be worn in multiple ways. And I find two-inch heels go easily from day to night!
)3. High-waisted light denim
As I mentioned above, this style goes great with cropped tops. It also makes easier to tuck in a sweater. Another way to tweak your outfit French. Or half-tuck that sweater for a sophisticated but relaxed-looknig "French tuck" as Tan, one of the Queer Eye guys has even dubbed that tweak.
As for high-waisted denim, you can find loads of them in vintage shops. I also love these sustainably made Agolde jeans I bought new at Revolve, because they're made of recycled materials and the 90s fit is just right. FYI I also love Levi's, one of the few huge brands making a sustainable initiatives. There is also not only something French, but something '90s timeless about high-waisted jeans. I was recently re-watching Friends and this lightwash look is the one most favored by Monica's character! In fact, I loved ALL of the Friends' outfits all of a sudden. The '90s are unequivocally seeing a comeback. Most of all, though, I noticed the built-to-last quality of the "Friends'" clothes. I don't know if this recent pushback against fast fashion is part of that 90s come-back, but the clothes Monica, Rachel, and Phoebe wear in the show looked less trendy, sturdier, and more wearable-- aka modern! I hope the trend continues! Check this piece out in The Washington Post about the recent "tipping point" in fast fashion. Also, Elizabeth Cline, who I recently interviewed here is quoted in the piece!
4. A black leather jacket
Okay, phew, I promised to stick to the point, but, you guys, fashion and its history and vintage stuff and costumes might be my favorite thing to chat about. (I love books and movies, too. I have an upcoming post about some picks for fall good reads and fireside watches.) I admit I get a little over-enthused. I'll let the rest of the pieces speak for themselves, except to say I found this Maje jacket new with tags on eBay!!! AND the seller has several more new and pre-owned versions in his eBay shop, including a few by Sandro and others. Follow me on the Like To Know It app to see the others! A classic leather jacket is unquestionably an item you can easily score secondhand, while upping the quality of the garment, no matter your budget. For example, my pre-owned jacket cost a fifth of the price of a new Maje jacket by buying it secondhand, even with having to pay $30 to ship it from Russia!
5. A black tailored skirt & 6. Cat-eyed sunglasses or classic black sunglasses
I'm endlessly thrifting beautiful, tailored black skirts and experimenting with which length looks best on me. I like just above the knee or right on the knee. I purchased a short Reformation skirt this summer, and I felt so uncomfortable. Being sexy and chic isn't about showing a lot of skin. It's about being comfortable in said skin. (Urgh, you know what I mean, I hope.) Cat-eyed sunglasses also come in different shapes btw, so don't write the style off because one pair, once at a fair or a vintage shop didn't suit you! Even if you really think they don't suit you, you might want to try experimenting with thinner or thicker frames. I have a rounder pair that don't suit me as well as these YSL sunnies above. They're Nina Ricci, and I ought to find them a more loving home in my Poshmark closet... https://poshmark.com/closet/isabelladavid.
7. White button-down tailored shirt & 8. A Nice Black or Brown Belt
I would argue that item #7 is maybe the most important one in your French girl capsule wardrobe, more important even than a striped top, but I promised to keep my asides to a minimum. If you, as I used to do, think white blouses are boring, may I suggest two remedies:
a. Maybe try a different style of white blouse than the classic buttoned-down version. One, say, without a collar? Or maybe a lacy, delicate version to help you ease into the look? There's nothing corporate or cold or masculine (if such is your complaint) about a white, lacey Edwardian or Victorian blouse.
b. Check out Jane Birkin in a white, button-down shirt, And realize what you have been missing all your life and all you needed in your toolkit was this shirt. (Mine is by Sézane and the belt is from Rouje. I feel like the R confuses people swimming in a sea of Gucci "G"s and it makes me giggle.)
9. A soft neutral sweater in a classic cut
I began buying my sweaters secondhand when I realized I could get Isabel Marant sweaters and cashmere sweaters for peanuts online. I never fret if they pill, and actually, because of the original price point and the quality of the fibers, they rarely do.
Anyway, my point is, this list of classic, built-to-last essentials is within anyone's means if you do a little hunting for quality in a thrift store or on eBay! And all these pieces are easily found and mixed and matched. (Mine in the image above, which I originally shot for a post on "How to Do a Fishtail Braid", is by Isabel Marant from Poshmark. It retails for $400, I think. I got it for $50!) That leads me to the last but not least...
10. White Jeans or White Trousers That You Can Wear Any Season
This is a new one for me and maybe even more challenging than learning to embrace a button-down top-- the one struck me as too conservative before, while the other I felt restricted from wearing in any season by the same conservative mindset I was eschewing. I used to keep my white pants for summer, but the more French style accounts or Jane Birkin fan accounts I follow, the more open I've become to wearing white jeans all year round. If the thought worries you, start a little easier with a pair of beautifully tailored trousers instead.
The beauty of this list is that I'm suggesting you seek out the most basic, neutral pieces from your wardrobe and really start putting them to work, focusing on making them werk for you, instead of buying new, trendy pieces that you never end up wearing more than once. Instead of that noise, focus on caring for the clothes you do own, filling in the gaps in your wardrobe where you find them and then from there, ensure a good fit by getting to know your local tailor or cobbler! Most of all, have lots of fun finding ways to create sophisticated looks with the pieces you own and maybe, every season, a fresh accessory or basic or two.
As I've been exploring finding a sense of my own style through this blog, I've more and more come to appreciate the classic simplicity and elegance of the so-called "French girl". Even if the above pieces felt costume-y and dressed-up at first, more and more I crave a sense of elegance, simplicity, and ease of dressing. I also appreciate that when I buy a piece that fits within that French girl ethos or uniform, a. it's nice to know the piece will probably never go out of style and b. I love that it's easy to mix and match all these basics and always come out of with a stunning combination!
What do you think? Which look is your favorite? Which pieces would be on your own list of necessities?
Above: I'm wearing a secondhand Ulla Johnson dress from eBay with a new Brixton hat from Revolve that I'm also tempted to purchase it in purple. What do you guys think? Harper is in a Doên dress similar to this one and a thrifted Helen Kaminski boater from Greene Street Consignment in Chestnut Hill. I loved our outfits so much I ended up sketching them. Check it out below and let me know if you prefer the black and white or color!
I put my blog on pause this spring in order to focus on getting my family settled in our new home. Now, that that's accomplished-- beds are bought and made up, playrooms are organized, pictures are hung on the walls, and everyone's up to date with doctor and dentist AND vet visits aiaiai-- I've been going through pics stored on my laptop from this spring. I can't believe I never shared this idyllic day with you guys! First of all, I want to keep it fresh in my head, because I want to be sure to make it back to Holland Ridge Farms next year in plenty of time to enjoy the tulips in full bloom. We actually ended up visiting on the very last day that the farm was open this spring! We felt very lucky to have made it all, and even though it was late in the season, it was a perfect day of chicken-watching, pony-riding, tulip-picking, and food trucks. As you can see from some of the brown rows in the images above, the tulips had started dying. It will be incredible to see the farm in its fully glory next spring!
Did you guys have a chance to visit any tulip farms this spring? Have any of you been to Holland? Tulips are my favorite flower, so I'd dearly love to go one day! (Plus, I'd love to see the canals of Amsterdam.) In New York City, tulips would suddenly turn up in little bunches in the buckets outside my neighborhood bodega, and I'd know it was officially fall. They signify cool temps and cozy times to me.
Top- Secondhand Frame blouse from Shop Linda's Stuff. Same one here.
Skirt- Revolve from three years ago. Similar here. Use my link for 20% off!
Backpack- Vintage Chanel backpack. Similar here.
Booties- Pre-owned Frye booties. Similar here. (Size 7 & only $79!)
Did you guys know 2019's Fashion Revolution Week is already coming up next week? Check out the details here.
In honor of that annual event, started in 2013 to commemorate the collapse of the Rana Plaza and the thousands of factory workers who died that tragic day, I thought I'd discuss what slow fashion is about and link to some great posts below! First and foremost, though, I'd like to emphasize that you can't buy your way into sustainability. If sustainability is about buying anything, it's more about buying less, and yes, choosing well/ sustainably made garments can be key, because that often means your garments are made more carefully and with higher quality fibers and will last for a greater number of wears. For example, shooting for 30 wears is the rule of thumb for slow fashion! Asking myself whether I'll wear a garment or a pair of shoes or a bag at least 30x has stopped me from making a lot of wasteful purchases since I became aware of the need for a fashion revolution on that fateful day six years ago.
Choosing sustainably made or secondhand garments and shoes (and even designer bags) is certainly preferable, but those options aren't open to everybody. So it's not about a sustainability/ virtue olympics, either-- aka who is the most sustainable of them all! (Honestly, I thrift not out of virtue, but because I LOVE the hunt! And I mostly shop sustainably made designers when the budget allows, because the garments are nicer for the reasons I mentioned above!
What sustainability is truly about is a sense of inclusivity and an awareness of the circular economy and environment that ties us all together. At the heart of slow or sustainable fashion it's about transforming this attitude towards our garments and hopefully towards our world...
Into this one...
(Click on both images to take you to two great posts on some finer points of what sustainable fashion is all about!)
My suede skirt above is a great example of a loved garment! I bought it on sale on Revolve three years ago, and I wear it all the time. It's such a great neutral piece, and I can dress it up or down, make it chic or boho. (Although I hate that word and cringe writing it... but it does conjure up a style image, so I'll leave it.) I was so upset to spot a stain as you can see in the image where I'm checking out the outfit in the mirror-- a shiny spot that's probably from makeup or lotion on my hands. In the past, I might have been tempted to throw the skirt into the giveaway bag I always have going, what with two children growing like weeds. Coincidentally, that evening I happened to spot this incredible graph (see below) on Faye Delanty's Instagram stories! Faye Delanty is the beauty and brains behind Fashion Hound in Australia and THE queen of thrift queens.
When I first became aware of sustainable fashion, I definitely fell prey to the mistaken belief that my conscious consumer choices could change the world. While I continue to think it's better to be informed, what will change the world is consumers taking companies to task for polluting the planet, mistreating factory workers, and abusing animals, and that means systemic change needs to happen. It's going to take a paradigm shift not simply a shift in the spending habits of individual wallets. I do think, though, that when we treat our own garments as if they're valuable and worth being cared for instead of as disposable goods, I hope this mindset will trickle down to positive changes in every aspect of our lives-- to valuing and loving ourselves, our planet, our children's futures... and will help grow and strengthen our resolve to see companies treat the environment and their workers with the same attitude of loving respect.
That said, this Fashion Week 2019 I hope you will consider asking one of your favorite designers #whomademyclothes?
P.S. Using this graph, I've now saved my favorite skirt AND my favorite jeans by 3x1!
Dress by Dôen last year. Similar here.
Bag by Faithfull the Brand. Sold out everywhere but Bloomingdales.
Vegetable-dyed clogs by Swedish Hasbeens. Similar here.
Okay, not technically wearing a "designer" bag per se in these pics, but I have collected quite a few secondhand ones now! And most of them recently. As in the past three or four years, ever since I discovered the magical fact that you can buy a vintage Chanel purse, and it's just as nice (if not more special) than a new Chanel purse and at a quarter of the price. A Chanel bag keeps its value, so even the secondhand ones are usually quite pricey, BUT there are ways around that if your heart is set on Chanel (or Chloé or YSL) and the wallet does not quite allow. I'll be going into that in the post below, along with a few other tips and tricks I've picked up along the way!
I actually enjoy collecting all kinds of bags. The straw one above is a Faithfull the Brand (one of my favorite sustainable brands) basket bag I bought on sale at ShopBop. (It's sold out everywhere but Bloomingdales for some reason. Maybe because they haven't put it on sale. Click the link above if you still dig it!) Or, if your heart is set on a designer bag, and you're interested in both a budget AND earthy friendly option, read on below:
1. Proceed with Extreme Caution
I don't quite understand why some bags are so valued above others to the point that people would buy fakes just to have a bag (ostensibly) from that brand. Chanel bags really are truly beautiful, and I'm not sure if I've seen a fake. I have walked past these terrifying stalls that pop up off Canal Street, where the world's most shifty-eyed people coax you to check out these sad, huge piles of fake YSL and Louis bags for twenty or so bucks a pop. There's a weird, make-shift, off-putting, nervous vibe to the illegal enterprise of fake bags that makes me walk faster. Although, last time I was in NYC, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, the bags looked pretty legit.
So why buy "real"? If you do look closer at a true designer bag, a Chanel, for example, it is exquisitely sewn. The material is gorgeous and soft-- I prefer caviar leather to lambskin both for easier upkeep and because the lambskin makes me sad to think about even secondhand. I can't quite understand why people would bother buying fakes just to pretend to have a certain kind of bag. I mean, I guess I get it, but it seems silly. (If you Google "concept of authenticity and fashion" there are SO many fascinating pieces on the subject. Here's one.) In a nutshell: I think quality always matters more than labels. Sometimes labels can even look a little vulgar. I feel like Instagram has made me sick of a certain pair of double Gs. There are SO many exquisite bags out there that are not designer. I love Polene Paris, and really lust for one! Sézane makes gorgeous bags. And Rouje has started to make not only straw bags, but cute leather satchels as well, not to mention that this summer, I can tell you, harmless bamboo and straw bags are in. There are incredible vintage options as well, and Clare V makes some cute vegan bags, too!
However, if you do want to buy a designer bag secondhand, you do have to watch out BIGTIME for fakes marketed as the real thing. Unlike the at least semi-honest knockoff dealers in Manhattan, some people will actually try to charge you more for a fake bag than they would if they were just selling them as fakes. The whole thing is kind of creepy and puzzling. Metaphysical questions of authenticity aside, it's soul-crushing to spend your hard-earned dollars on an item that isn't "real". I realized what a close brush I had with this issue when I bought my third designer bag. A gently used Céline bag bought from a random seller on eBay. I realized, when I received the very cute but plain black leather bag, that it would have been so, so, so easy to replicate a fake. Only after buying the bag, did I spend the time authenticating it. I'm 99% sure it's authentic, and of course eBay guarantees its purchases, but I think the whole thing could have turned into an ordeal. Now I spend time beforehand authenticating my purchase myself. With Chanel, your bag should come with at least an image of a serial number and an authenticity card that helps give you peace of mind, although I guess those could be very easily faked. The issue people don't consider is that designer bags are good investments: they don't depreciate much in value and they're often "guaranteed" by the designer. I've heard you can take your Louis Vuitton bag to be repurposed for free, although I haven't tried it yet with my own secondhand ones. That's all to say, if you're plunking down money for a certain bag, you should take the time to make sure you're actually getting what's being advertised.
2. Shop from Reliable Secondhand Retailers Only
There are a few shops I trust now on eBay like Linda's Stuff or Cocoa's Fab Finds or Luxury Garage Sales. I would urge caution shopping on eBay from sellers of designer bags with fewer than several hundred (or even thousand) ratings, and even then do your homework! I have yet to purchase from The Real Real, but I've checked out their site extensively and have heard great things. One of the things I like about the retailers I mentioned above is that they're all really good about disclosing any flaws-- an aspect of secondhand designer bag shopping that I'll go into in my next point. Tradesy can be good as well, but the prices are usually a little steeper and if you do have an issue their customer service is horrendous and their return policy is Tradesy credit only. Some other vintage and secondhand sellers that I love are Rice and Beans Vintage (Anine Bing consigns her stuff there!) and a consignment shop in Ridgefield, CT called Bring 'n Buy (will check if they have a website).
If you're really into thrifting, there's always a chance you'll spot a designer bag out in the wild, but that's pretty darn rare/ unheard of. I did just get into collecting vintage Etienne Aigner bags (although how cute and vintage is this new one) and then I found TWO of them at Shop Greene Street this past week for only $18 a pop! (Greene Street is a consignment shop in the Philadelphia area.) But that kind of sighting is pretty rare and even rarer in the case of high end designers. I'd say hunting around online for the bag of your dreams at a price point that works for you is a better use of your time and wallet! That brings me to...
3. It Is 100% Possible to Afford a Designer Bag, But...
Yep, there's a "but". My first Chanel bag had a big scratch across the back and some wear on the corners. The seller disclosed all the issues, and the price and dark lipstick red color were incredible, so I went ahead and purchased it. If your heart is set on owning a Chanel bag or a Saint Laurent or what have you, it is possible, but you may have to lower your standards to "gently used" or even very used until the price matches what you can reasonably afford to purchase without breaking your bank account. (I don't think you should break your bank account! As a blogger, I felt it would help grab people's eyes if I featured a vintage Chanel bag with my thrifted outfits, so it was a worthwhile investment for me. But as I wrote above, there are plenty of beautiful non-designer bags out there that will look stunning with any outfit.) However, the good news is that sometimes sellers will overstate an issue. I recently found my first (gently used) Chloé bag at an excellent price. The seller described it as having dirt on it, but the pictures looked fine. I could discern no dirt! I crossed my fingers and made the purchase. The bag arrived so quickly! (Bought from My Designerly. They also offer layaway FYI, as does Rice and Beans Vintage!) I could discern NO DIRT on the pale gray bag whatsoever. It looks brand spanking new. (You can see lots of images of it and my other vintage designer bags on my Instagram @IsabellaDavidVintage.) I decided not to question the goodness of the gods and remain mystified but happy I got the bag.
4. Be Patient and Flexible
Spend some time, or even A LOT of time, hunting around for the right bag at the right price for you. You'll learn so much about different bags and different price points this way. You'll get a good sense of what's out there and what constitutes a good price, and you might even find a hidden treasure on sale that you hadn't even considered before!
The Truly Great Story of How I Got My First Designer Bag
Wait, did I claim you can't find designer bags out in the wild? How could I have forgotten the all-time greatest story of how I thrifted my very first designer bag-- a Louis Vuitton satchel. I was living in Soho at the time and working as a catalogue model. This was 2010, but I had just moved in with my now husband, whose apartment it was. Everything in that neighborhood was too rich for my blood, so I tended to stop into the Second Time Around Consignment shop on my way home to console myself for all the boutiques I had to pass on by. (One of my best thrift tips is to thrift where the wealthy people live. They will wear a stunning dress ONCE and then toss it, because, and I quote "I got photographed in it." This was from an ordinary but wealthy girl that I met in NYC who equated Facebook with the Daily Mail.) This particular STA branch was just off Prince and closed a couple years ago. (There's a Housing Works in Tribeca now, and I'm dying to stop in there one of these days!)
Anyway, so around that time, way back in the early part of the century-- ha, this story is making me feel old--Bravo had just started a short-lived reality show set in the consignment shop. The day I went in and found the Louis bag hanging in an ordinary rack alongside a bunch of other random purses, the three diva stars of the show happened to be working. I brought my find to the counter, and I could tell pretty fast from their unfriendly stares that semi- Bravo fame had gone to their heads. It was almost like the cameras started rolling, because they were primed for drama, because the beautiful bag gleaming there on the counter became the focal point of said drama. I mentioned already that I was completely broke back then and only living in Soho because my boyfriend (now husband) already had an apartment there. But that day was special, so I was treating myself to what I thought was a $125 bag. I had just happened to have gotten paid in cash for a miserable catalogue job in Midtown, and the money was still warm in my pocket. (Miserable as in they'd roll out these racks of ugly polyester clothes and you had to put on and take off one hideous garment after another for hours and hours without breaks or food. Modeling is definitely not a glamorous career unless you're one of the handful of supermodels.) Anyway, I laid the bag carefully on the glass counter, and one of the women, who I recognized from the show, sniffed like a British duchess before a commoner who had not curtseyed.
"This is not priced correctly," she said, eyeing the bag. I almost apologized as if I had been the one to misprice the bag! "This bag should be more than that."
My heart sank. It was on the tip of my tongue to ask how much the bag was, but before I could get the words out, with one fluid motion, she swooped the bag up and put it behind the counter with the other more expensive items.
"Wait," I said. "I still want the bag."
That was false. Actually, I now mostly wanted the bag, because her rudeness angered me. The way she was treating me was exactly the way I'd seen her disdainfully treat customers on the Bravo show. That same mixture of contempt and ill humor that bespeaks unwarranted drama and probably attracted the producers to her in the first place. She looked me up and down slowly, giving me the oddest sensation that a camera was recording the scene. It was Pretty Woman-in-that-boutique level upsetting and surreal. Her behavior was also a little crazy. SHE WAS ACTING FOR CAMERAS THAT WEREN'T EVEN THERE! And then she said it. I'll never forget. A Bravo Reality villain worthy line.
"You couldn't afford it."
I went very hot and then very cold, and suddenly, I was transformed into the superhero version of myself I wish I could be all the time. I literally have a name for her! I call her Brooklyn Izzy. (My mother is from Brooklyn and my father from France, but I mostly grew up in Virginia. From that odd combination, most New Yorkers assume I'm Canadian, because, I'm that mild-mannered, polite, and (I quote many a New Yorker) "so nice". I stutter. I'm shy. I would never seek out a conflict, but sometimes, every now and then, a conflict finds me. And not just any conflict triggers the superhero version of me. It has to be the kind that fills me with a righteous fury, when I know I'm 100% in the right as I was in this case. And when it does, it's like this other personality jumps into the tollbooth of my mind, does a quick change into a cape and takes over, and NO ONE crosses Brooklyn Izzy.
"So how much is it?" I asked her.
This time she told me a price (out of thin air mind you), but she cut the camera-worthy antics.
I took the cash out of my pocket in what was maybe the most baller and possibly foolish (considering how broke I actually was) moment of my life and I slapped down THE EXACT amount. $375. Everything I'd been paid that morning. A stupid but stunning act of bravado. And oh so worth it.
I completed the transaction, and then it was as if the petty spirit of that reality show infected me too for a moment. It wasn't great, but I looked at her and the other guy from the show who had joined in, drawn to the scent of brewing drama. I was still cool, calm, and collected, operating with that lightning running through my veins.
"This is going to make a great story on Yelp," I told them, and they got SO upset.
At first the woman in charge accused me of threatening her with Yelp, and I had to point out it was her own words I was going to repeat. I was so calm and matter of fact that she calmed down, too. (Brooklyn Izzy is always says the exact right thing at the right moment. WHY cannot I be her ALL the time instead of my usual tongue-tied self??) If she didn't like her own words, I pointed out to that fame-crazed woman, why did she say them? I think that's when she apologized, and I mostly kept the story to myself. (It's been nearly a decade, and the shop is closed now.) I never shopped in that shop again. It's closed now, and through the secondhand grapevine I heard a rumor that, ironically enough, it was a potential issue with shady practices!
I guess it was all worth the encounter with crazed Bravo reality stars, because it's been almost ten years and I still use and love that bag! And it still looks great!
So that brings us back to the beginning: like I said when I started this piece, tread carefully. Even secondhand, the designer bag game is both a thrilling and a dangerous one! May the odds be in your favor!
What's your best thrift score? Have you ever bought a gently used designer bag? Where did you make your purchase?
I often say my favorite part about thrifting is the chance it offers me to learn more about designers who would otherwise be out of my price range. I actually first learned about the designer Ulla Johnson on Instagram. A happy result of a newfound interest in #sustainablefashion! However, when I Googled where to shop her pieces, I was crushed to learn her silk dresses ran in the $500 price range. Even her blouses were about $300!! I think it was around then I fell in love with eBay, Poshmark, and online consignment retail in general. Instead of scavenging for whatever treasures I happened upon, my thrifting took on a more x-marks-the-spot flavor. (FYI I haven't shopped from the Real Real yet, but I've heard excellent things, have browsed extensively, and noticed they have a supreme selection of Ulla Johnson pieces!)
My tailored online searches do sometimes help me find Ulla's pieces on sale on sites like ShopBop. (I just bought her popcorn Baranco tote for summer for 60% off here!) But I was thrilled when, on one of said searches, I found the embroidered Ulla Johnson peasant blouse I'm wearing in this post (above). (Only $75 on eBay. It's also a size 2, but I gambled on it anyway. Because peasant blouses are cut generously, it fits me fine! I also own Ulla pieces in sizes 4-10! Size doesn't matter. Fit is king!) The score reaped even more rewards after I posted it to my Instagram stories: one of my Romanian friends messaged me to tell me I was actually wearing a traditional Romanian blouse!
"Really?" I wondered, privately questioning how Mircea could know that. Wasn't the top simply an embroidered shirt? Wrong! So wrong! My pretty blouse was far, far, far from "simple" as it turns out. "Google 'la blouse roumaine'," my friend urged me. So I did only to learn, much to my delight, how truly layered and textured the history of my old, thrifted shirt really is...
Henri Matisse "La Blouse Roumaniane" painted in 1940
I believe fashion is art. It can express many things. Even a simple pair of blue jeans and a white t-shirt expresses a state of mind. Even a NorthFace jacket and Uggs does the same, even if it's not the most original look. However, I don't mean to criticize the desire to conform. (When I was younger, I used to bitterly resent conservatively dressed people, because of the odd looks and comments my outfits garnered outside of the Lower East Side. Now I shrug my shoulders, because the LES, I know now, is a state of mind.) As far as conformity goes, in this year and in my region of the world, NorthFace jackets and Uggs are as ubiquitous as Romanian blouses once were in another part of the world. It could even be argued that the uniform of a warm black jacket and comfortable shoes is worn just as much to express age and social status just as the Romanian blouse was embroidered with flowers and images to do the same. Whether you think your outfit is fashion or not is beside the point: your clothes speak. If your outfit expresses a desire for comfort, that's up to the individual to choose function over form, but I do think people who wear fantastical colors and shapes and do so fabulously are a lot more fun (for me) to look at and promise to tell a heckuva lot more fantastical tales.
For example, there is no NorthFace jacket that inspired an artist as the Romanian blouse has done. In fact, the blouse has experienced a modern revival outside Romania because of a famous painting in 1940 by Matisse called "La Blouse Roumaine", which is why my top now exists and how this top I'm wearing is now deliciously referred to in the fashion world. The painting then inspired Yves Saint Laurent in 1981 to explore traditional Romanian costumes in a now landmark fashion show, from reincarnations of long, luscious skirts to crowns of gleaming braids, and, finally, the peasant blouse whose colors and embroidery not only express the wearer's status but are also distinctive markers of different regions of the country. Later on, designers such as Tom Ford and Phillippe Guilet drew inspiration from the same source. Now, Ulla Johnson is offering her own take on the traditional garment.
Why do you think so many designers have been inspired by this blouse? Do you own one?
In the end, what struck me in my reserach was how not one but FOUR Romanian and French writers, artists, and poets are said to have inspired Matisse's paintings and sketches of the Romanian blouse, as much as the gift to Matisse of an "IA", which is how the Romanian blouse is referred to in the community, by Romanian artist Theodor Pallady did. Some might look and see a blouse, but now I see Anna de Noailles' love poems, I see Matisse's endless sketches of soft female forms reclining in a nimbus of color and light, I see an online community devoted to stories around the Romanian IA or la blouse roumaine. Most of all, I now see these luminous words of Matisse's, discovered only now through my research into this beautiful piece, "“Color helps to express light, not the physical phenomenon, but the only light that really exists, that in the artist’s brain."
To me, fashion is color, a walking bit of art that reflects my own light and those of the souls around me. Secondhand or new, designer or not, I will clothe myself with color and light and silk and dreams, even if *dramatic sigh* I alone must take up and wear all the world's beautiful castoffs to do so. #thriftersoftheworldunite
We're settling in nicely after moving mid-January, and I'm so excited for the spring I decided to bring the spring to me in this petal pink outfit! I wouldn't usually wear pink on pink but I think it works here. One nice thing about moving: your clothes get thrown together in different ways, and you notice new combinations. I bought this petal pink Sézane coat on eBay last year and only noticed yesterday that it perfectly matches this blush Free People beanie I've had for years and this soft pink secondhand Tory Burch tote from Greene Street Consignment!) Would you wear pink on pink?
About a month ago, we moved for what felt like the bajillionth, gazillionth time since we became a family six short years ago. Our family having survived these many, many, many, many moves in one piece (more or less), I told myself I was a pro now! I was sure I could make this next (and hopefully last) move easily, efficiently... so basically in my dreams.
It was A MOVE. You know what they say: pride comes before a move... or is it a fall? Fall or move, it felt the same-- i.e. chaotic, endless with a nice thump on the tuckus at the end. By definition, moving is always going to be a no-good, 100% horrendous time. There's nothing you can do about that, but, afterwards, I did discover there IS something you can do about the stress that comes along with wintertime. You don't have to give in to winter stress! As for moving stress, in some ways, it was kind of a relief to finally surrender to the total horror of moving house with two toddlers, a puppy, a cat, and a 150 lb Newfoundland. Instead of adding pressure to do human things like wear clean clothes or eat square meals, I acknowledged there might sometimes be factors outside my control. Actually, the ordeal sort of reminded me of finals. I'm not quite sure what I learned that was of much use in college-- I was a Comp Lit major so I can parse the heck out of some gnarly semiotics or what have you-- but I do feel like finals week taught me one solid life lesson: you can survive anything if you just keep slogging to the other side and worry about washing your hair later.
I'm happy to report we're on the other side of this move! We're unpacked, the cable is hooked up, the kids are watching Super Why, and my hair is clean again! And I have learned another important life lesson: that while moving is inevitably horrible and there's nothing you can do about it, THERE IS SO MUCH YOU CAN DO TO FEEL 100% BETTER ABOUT YOURSELF IN THE WINTERTIME! Below are five things I did that helped me recover my sanity and my skin after a solid month of winter, moving, and being a full-time stay-at-home mommy/ zookeeper! I have been so excited at how much improvement I've seen in my skin and my outlook after a month of making these changes. What are some of your winter remedies for dry skin and the stress of bad weather?
1. Drink Water Inside and Out
This one's pretty basic, but it makes all the difference in the world. We're all familiar with the advice to drink your body weight in H2O, so I added this twist to help it stick in my head: drink a bunch of water whenever you can but also keep your humidifier going whenever you can as well. When you're asleep, place one beside your bed. When you're working, put it on your desk.... in fact let me go fetch mine right now! I love it. It's so easy to fill and cart around and it's purty. You can find it on Amazon. (This one even comes with a selection of essential oils for $34.95 including the humidifier/ diffuser.) BRB!
Okay, I'm back. I thought about it, and I have to admit maybe learned one thing of practical value in college. I took a Buddhist literature class my first year, and while I can't remember a single text that we read-- although maybe that's where I encountered Basho first and fell in love with Japanese poetry. You can read some of my haibun here!-- I did find out there was a Sri Lankan Buddhist Monastery in West Virginia pretty close to UVA, and I went to visit it one weekend for free. I learned to meditate there, but the beauty of meditation is you can learn/ do it anywhere at any time. The meditation the monk taught me was a simple one that I also use to help me count laps in the pool. Here it is: breathe in and count 1, breath out and count 2, breathe in (3), breathe out (4), and so on and so forth until you reach 10 and then you begin again. If you want something more guided, there are so many great apps with meditation exercises. They always put me to sleep, and I tend to meditate in the morning, so I've kept to my simple version. I don't manage to meditate every day, but even doing it occasionally for ten minutes here or there makes a dramatic difference in my outlook.
3. Work Out in the Morning
On a less esoteric note, I have to admit I picked up this bit of excellent advice, because I saw that Pete Davidson was dating Kate Beckinsale, an actress I haven't paid any attention to in many a moon. When I Googled her, I was blown away by how fit she looks! Her Instagram is also hilarious, so I hope that means they're soulmates and never break up. (They probably already broke up, didn't they. PLEASE DON'T AT ME. LET ME LIVE IN MY DREAM WORLD!) At any rate, Kate recommends morning workouts both for fitness and as a way to guard against anxiety and depression, both of which I struggle with to some degree every winter. (I think I might have SAD, but I've never been diagnosed.)
"Sweat," Kate Beckinsale claims, echoing one of my favorite authors Isak Dinsesen, "is nature's anti-depressant." I still don't think I would have taken this excellent advice if I hadn't found out my local gym offers morning daycare hours. I've been dropping my daughter off at school, grabbing coffee with my husband, dropping him at work, and then hitting the gym, and instead of exhausted by this grueling morning routine, I feel transformed. Instead of only feeling better in the evenings after my husband gets home from work and I squeeze in a workout, I am now 1000% more cheerful and energized the entire day long. Basically, me and Kate Beckinsale (and Isak Dinesen) can't recommend it enough. Sweat!
For anyone who's read this post to this point (Bless you. Thank you!), you might have picked up that I'm a bigtime reader. There are two side effects to this behavior: I'm constantly recommending books and authors (see points 2 & 3 above) but I'm also constantly frowning. For some reason, when I read, I frown. Ever since I was about 20, I've been fighting the curse of the 11. As much as I hate frown lines, the idea of Botox freaks me out, although I don't judge anyone for any cosmetic procedure they want to do to feel better about themselves. So for years, I remained stuck between Kim Kardashian's remedy-- resting bitch face ad eternitum-- or Botox, which carries the side effect of DEATH. So I did nothing besides massaging my forehead a lot and wearing bangs and felt kind of bad about it, and then I finally tried Frownies, and the temporary lines that were starting to become a permanent part of my look vanished! VANISHED! This stuff is magic. I also find fine lines are more prominent in winter, so I'm excited I don't have to wait until the air grows more humid for some relief this year.
5. Keep On Top of Moisturizing Creams and Masks
This isn't just a superficial suggestion: I've noticed the smells of my Jurlique rosewater spray or my favorite Bliss honey mask really perks me up and improve my mood in the gray, scentless winter especially. They might even provide the same effect as adding color to my wardrobe. Light floral scents and colors really trick my system in the winter! I'm currently really loving Edible Beauty's Ageless Goddess Serum, everything Jurlique does with roses, and Bliss's cruelty-free masks from their glycolic peel to their gentler honey mask. Check out this post for a simple nighttime routine that's easy to keep up. Mind you, I don't have sensitive skin, though, so I can try anything. For example, I love both olive oil or coconut oil for my hair and skin in the winter, although I recommend only using olive oil at home as it doesn't absorb the way coconut oil does.
What are your favorite winter moisturizers? Do you change your beauty routine in the winter same as me? Any tips or tricks for chilling out while keeping warm in the winter?
This January, we somehow managed to buy a home by hook or by crook! Originally, after our disastrous first-time home-buying experience, which we're still paying off, we thought it would be at least another three years before we could be in a house! My daughter would have been 8-years-old by then, and I really wanted her to have those early childhood memories, growing up in a cozy home of her own. That urgency probably helped motivate us. It also helped that Ryan, my husband works in real estate law and is even a professor on the subject at both Notre Dame and Penn Law, so those factors helped us finagle the system a little this time around. Maybe that's just my positive spin on what we went through with our first house, or The Money Pit 2 for short... It was a learning experience! But it was pretty cool that we went from being clueless to working as our own agents in our second home-buying experience. I should really write a blog post sharing some home-buying tips! Being well-informed and knowledgeable made all the difference. Let me know if you'd be interested in a post about home-buying tips and tricks in the comments below!
vintage Chanel Purse from Poshmark
vintage earrings from Antique Gallery in Chestnut Hill, PA
consignment necklace by Alexandra Margnat from Linda's Stuff
vintage dress from eBay
As for my winter refresh challenge: even though we were smart enough this go-around to buy below our budget so we could invest the extra money into home improvements, there were still unforeseen expenses. So far this 2019, I've been trying to shop less both because we're on a tight budget and because I'm into the idea of sustainability. (Or maybe it's because I feel vaguely shamed by Marie Kondo's omnipresent looming shadow (even though I've never watched her show out of pure fear of that beautiful, tiny lady). In that general spirit, I've been trying to wear things I already own but that I've never worn before maybe because I thought they were inappropriate for everyday occasions like this maxi dress or because I get in a style rut, especially when it's cold out. Does that happen to anyone else? I suddenly go from outfits to utility as soon as the weather dips.
This 70s-era vintage dress was my pick for my own closet challenge. It looked an odd combination of baggy and dressy on the hanger, but I made play around with it, and it suddenly fit just right with the help of a western belt and consignment Sandro booties from Linda's Stuff on eBay. (I also found this vintage dress on eBay but from a random seller that I can't quite recommend despite how stunning the dress ended up being. It arrived wrapped in not one but TWO Glad bags, yikes. I loved the print enough to have it drycleaned and now it's good as new or even better.... it's a completely original take on a new trend and it was mine for the low price of $17!) Is there something hiding in your closet that you could refurbish with new accessories and wear again? I challenge you to find one unworn piece before winter is over and tag me on Instagram @IsabellaDavidVintage. I'd love to see what you come up with!
As for unforeseen home-buying expenses: apparently, this car has been here since approximately 1950ish?! Yikes! Our neighbors told us the whole yard was littered with old cars and this was the last one the house-flippers left. Luckily, that was one thing we learned from our first time around the home-buying block. We were not shy about our pre-purchase demands, and part of our purchase agreement was having this tetanus soup taken away! We were also pretty lucky to work with very professional builders and sellers this go-around, although I wouldn't call it luck exactly, either. We really liked and trusted the sellers and that entered into our decision as well. That's not something we considered the first time around, either. I even nicknamed the previous owner of our first house "Scary Gary", ha. I know now that should have been a red flag! Are you considering buying a home? What are some of your concerns?
A Slow Fashion Diary